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Alderson Should Build Around Wright



By Joseph Delgrippo ~ December 12th, 2011. Filed under: Digest Contributors, New York Mets.

Pretty much all major sports, but especially, baseball, are copycat sports. If something works for one organization, then others follow the lead. However, due to the long history of baseball and the ingrained ideas and traits, it often takes longer for new ideas to be implemented.

Billy Beane began using low cost players who had high value qualities, but after MoneyBall came out, every team followed suit. And because Beane doesn’t know much about on field talent, the Oakland A’s stink once again.

Since the Yankees were always in the playoffs, they have not had many top of the draft picks. Brian Cashman began taking high upside talent in later rounds, then offering them bigger bonuses to sign. David Robertson was one such pick in 2006, and Dellin Betances was plucked away from a Vanderbilt scholarship using that same method in the same ’06 draft. Teams then began following suit with higher bonuses for top talent taken in later rounds.

The Texas Rangers have made the World Series for two consecutive seasons, with a potent offense and a good bullpen, but without a true ace pitcher who can be the proverbial shutdown guy, thus helping to avoid long losing streaks. Most of the best teams in baseball have an ace, but Texas won the past two seasons without one. C.J. Wilson was not an ace and the Rangers pounded their opponents into submission quite often.

Many people believe the 2012 New York Mets will not contend for a playoff spot, and include me as one of them. Not because they are devoid of talent, because some of their young guys are pretty good, but primarily due to the strength of the other teams within their division.

The Phillies have a great rotation and despite some aging, no current shortstop, and injury issues to Chase Utley and Ryan Howard (likely out for the 2012 season), they still have enough talent to earn a postseason spot. Plus, GM Ruben Amaro appears to make moves which improve their team, like signing their homegrown talent, trading for three top pitchers, and then signing Lee again last year.

The Atlanta Braves have good young talent, and except for a late season collapse, would have made the postseason. And they have good young pitching in the minors, and are willing to give them ample chances to pitch. They are good like that. Maybe Fredi Gonzalez shouldn’t overwork his top three bullpen guys as much, though.

The Washington Nationals are improving, have a good young mound duo in Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann, both of who came back very strong from Tommy John surgery. They also have an owner with a ton of money and an itch to win before his D-Day. They could use a young, lefty power bat…

The Miami Marlins are also better with the three big free agent splashes in Heath Bell, Jose Reyes* and Mark Buehrle joining a young core of Hanley Ramirez, Logan Morrison, Gaby Sanchez, Chris Coghlan, and Mike Stanton.

*It is amazing that the Mets lost one of their franchise players and are not even getting a first round pick back in return. Since the Marlins have the 9th pick in the 2012 draft, that pick is protected. The Mets will get the Marlins 2nd round pick plus the supplemental pick. Biggest problem with not trading Reyes at last year’s trade deadline was Sandy Alderson not seeing the variable of a bad team with a top pick signing Reyes. Tough thing to predict, but doesn’t a GM and his people have to look for every possibility?

Since the Mets were not so good last season, lost Reyes, and are unsure whether Johan Santana (a huge Minaya mistake) will pitch in 2012, they are not supposed to be good this year either. With those factors and with every other team in the division having better rosters, it is a perfect time to stick with the kids who began to produce last year and made the 2011 Mets somewhat fun to watch.

Since the team might be a last place squad, many Mets fans and pundits want the last bastion of their quality teams from 2006-2008, David Wright, to be traded. They want more trades like the Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler deal; to get younger, cheaper talent to try and win in 2014 and beyond. The Mets GM is actively looking to make trades but has indicated David Wright is not getting dealt.

And that is a very smart move.

Sandy Alderson has seen what has recently helped teams win. In 2010, it was a very strong top three in the rotation (and dominant bullpen) which propelled the San Francisco Giants, and then he saw the Arizona Diamondbacks use good, young starters (and a dominant bullpen) to win the NL West in 2011.

And he also saw the aforementioned Texas Rangers win with a solid, but not great rotation, great power lineup (and dominant bullpen) to win the AL Pennant the past two years. He also saw the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Rangers in the 2011 World Series with a mediocre rotation and a dominant bullpen.

As I mentioned earlier, MLB is a copycat league. Without a solid top three in the 2012 rotation, Alderson has smartly used his limited resources to secure a solid bullpen. He signed former closer Jon Rauch and current closer Frank Francisco and traded for Ramon Ramirez, who was a big part of that 2010 Giants World Series bullpen.

The Mets 2011 bullpen had a 4.33 ERA, ranked 28th of the 30 major league teams. These bullpen additions should help improve those numbers. With holdovers Bobby Parnell and Pedro Beato, who will not be pressured to get key outs late, the Mets now have a nice stable of power arms.

And despite Reyes’ departure, Alderson also sees a pretty good power offense. With Ike Davis (ankle), Lucas Duda (concussion) and David Wright (back) healthy again, and Jason Bay (another Minaya mistake) still in the fold, the Mets have four sluggers who might combine for 80-100 HRs. Add in a healthy Daniel Murphy, who is a solid hitter, and there are five guys who can drive in runs.

The key is health as none of the above players, except Bay, had 450 plate appearances in 2011.

Alderson performed magic when he shortened the Citi Field dimensions, likely adding power numbers to each of the hitters, but especially Wright, who has acknowledged the previously larger dimensions have hurt his numbers. By stating that Wright was not available in a trade and moving the fences in, Alderson clearly has indicated he wants Wright to remain a Met. Look for Alderson to try and extend Wright early next year.

And like the Texas Rangers have with Elvis Andrus, the 2012 will have a young shortstop, known for his glove, but has improved on the other side of the ball. His on base skills have clearly improved and he showed a knack for getting key hits.

Ruben Tejada should not be forced to win the shortstop job in spring training. He should be given the job prior to spring training. Let him have the knowledge that he will be the glue of a solid infield, which will give him immense confidence. Keith Hernandez always said the key to his 1979 NL MVP season was that his manager, Ken Boyer, told him no matter what happened early in the season, he was still going to be the Cardinal first baseman.

The overall key to the Mets future is definitely the young starters still in the minors, guys like Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jeurys Familia, Jenrry Mejia and possible Michael Fulmer, last year’s second round pick.

But to win now and stay competitive in 2012 and 2013, the Mets need to punish opponents on offense, keep the game close and win it late with a solid bullpen. That formula will not work every time in Citi Field, but it has shown to consistently win games for teams around the league.

But the offense needs to stay healthy, too, and Wright needs to wipe away his past demons and know he has a pretty good supporting cast, and need not do it alone.

The time to trade Wright was a few years ago, when the Boston Red Sox desperately needed a third baseman and actually had quality young talent to trade. Here is a Wright trade proposal I made two seasons ago.

Not moving Wright is just another sickly feather in Omar Minaya’s cap, probably the worst GM in the history of baseball.

Since Wright can void the last year of his current deal if he is traded, if the Mets tried to trade Wright they would not get a Beltran-type return, let alone a Dan Haren or Mark Teixeira type return. While, those types of trades could occur as recently as two years ago, those deals are never going to happen anymore as teams are over-valuing their young players. Wright is best served to stay in New York.

Alderson knows this and is making the smart move, for the team this season and for the Mets future.

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Joseph Delgrippo is an aspiring sportswriter and TV baseball analyst. He played NCAA baseball, at tiny Marietta (OH) College, participating in the Division 3 World Series. In addition, he's coached baseball at the high school level. His knowledge of this game goes far beyond what is shown on television.

4 Responses to Alderson Should Build Around Wright

  1. Steve S.

    Great article! I couldn’t agree more. Wright should have a great power year and cut down on his strikeouts a bit, as well, since he won’t have to try so hard to reach the fences.

    Now, if only the Mets could get rid of Pelfrey—perhaps in a Pagan-type deal, bringing back a competent starter and catcher. Or maybe they could non-tender him and sign another team’s non-tender starting pitcher.

  2. Chuck

    Unless he’s traded to Pittsburgh, Wright’s not walking away from $16 million guaranteed because, like you mentioned, Omar’s an idiot and the only guy who’d give him that much in the first place.

    Moving in the fences had nothing to do with Wright or Bay, it was a concession to MLB in return for the 2014 All-Star game.

    Personally, I don’t see Wright as a “build around” guy, and with the Mets’ budgetary concerns going to be worse in the foreseeable future, I believe Wright will, in fact, be traded before the deadline.

    A team in contention will always overpay, or take on additional money.

    Just like the Giants did with Beltran, or the Rangers with Lee in 2010.

  3. metsfan27

    Saying Wright should have been traded a couple of years ago is revisionist history. We know about ’07 and ’08. In ’09 the Mets started the season with a healthy Delgado, Beltran, and Reyes and a new closer and were expected to contend. Since then he’s been a young star under the team’s control for several more years. That’s exactly the situation you want. In ’09 his trade value was down because his power numbers dropped dramatically and in ’10 they were at .500 and in the Wild Card hunt til after the All-Star break, when they had that awful West Coast trip. So when. exactly, should they have traded him? In the little window before his concussion? if you trade him now you’re admitting your rebuilding won’t be done til he’s no longer able to play a significant role on a championship team. There’s nothing wrong with the idea of Wright anchoring the infield in 2014 as a 31-yr old. Are you, if you’re the Mets, going to admit that it’ll take longer than that?

  4. Joseph DelGrippo

    Metsfan27 –

    I am not a Mets fan, never have been and never will.

    If you click on the Wright trade proposal I linked in the piece, you will see the date on it was July 7, 2009, so it was at that point (before the trade deadline) I said Wright should have been traded, well over a month before he was beaned.

    At that point, Wright was hitting .326 with an .884 OPS. And after a dismal power display in April, Wright slugged .561 in May and .526 in June. His HRs were down, but his power was fine at that point.

    With my propsed trade (in 2009) of Wright to Boston, his power potential in cozy Fenway Park would probably have been pretty good.

    Also in that linked piece from 2009, I clearly state that despite the Mets record at that time, they will never earn a post season spot. False hope is the worst in sports, and that is what the Mets had at that time by playing over their head even with various injuries. I give another example where a team, after a small winning streak, which thinks it has a chance (2008 Yankees) then trades several young players for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte, and never did make the post season.

    I believe the Mets CAN contend by 2014, if they “throw away” 2012 and allow their current cadre of young players to play the entire season to gain even more much needed MLB experience.

    Ruben Tejada should be given the SS job, Lucas Duda should start the entire season (even if he slumps). Thole should be the starting catcher the entire year.

    The current lack of cash in their ownership will allow the young kids a good chance to play. There is also a chance that MLB could strip the ownership of the Mets from the Wilpon’s or force them to sell the team. Another owner could provide more stability down the road.

    By the 2014 season, two of the young pitchers among Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jenrry Mejia or Familia could be in the Mets starting rotation.

    And good, young pitching wins games.

    In 2014, I can clearly see Philadelphia becoming too old and not the same team.

    The Mets can contend in 2014, but it might take another year after that.

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